Whenever someone mentions they just found out they’re pregnant, they are met with shrieks of excitement and congratulatory messages. Well-intentioned friends and family members may start talking about possible baby names and sending gifts. Book and magazine covers may display a picture of a seemingly happy pregnant woman. But, what happens if you’re not feeling any of this excitement? What if you’re consumed by fear or anxiety? After all, pregnancy is a huge life event that has significant impacts on your body, mindset, and life. If you’ve decided to proceed with your pregnancy, what can you do to manage that anxiety? Can it affect your pregnancy? Is there anything you can do to calm it? And, can you take medication to control it?
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of unease. It’s experiencing fear or apprehension about an upcoming event. Usually, anxiety makes a person feel restless, irritable, or constantly worried. If the fear is intense enough, it could lead to a panic attack — a condition that occurs when the anxiety causes the person to experience physical reactions, including:
- Racing heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Trembling or shaking
- Churning sensation in the stomach
- Sense of impending doom
Despite the happy images of the pregnancy glow, anxiety is common during pregnancy. In fact, approximately 35% of women experience it while pregnant, and about 17% of people feel it immediately after childbirth. Therefore, if you’re feeling anxious while pregnant, you’re definitely not alone.
Can anxiety affect your pregnancy?
While some anxiety during pregnancy is normal, it can start affecting your physical and mental health when it starts interfering with daily life. Also, a study conducted by Belgium’s Catholic University concluded that anxiety between the 12th and 22nd weeks of pregnancy was linked to ADHD in children. And, if it develops into a full-blown anxiety disorder, it could increase the risk of preeclampsia, preterm labor, and low birth weight. It could also lead to postpartum depression.
How to Calm Anxiety While Pregnant
There are several things you can do to calm your anxiety while pregnant. Some of them you can do on your own, while others require communicating with people you trust.
1. Talk About It
The first thing you should do is acknowledge how you feel and seek help. You can talk with your OB-GYN during prenatal care, as well as schedule appointments with a therapist. If you don’t have health insurance or can’t take the time off work to talk with a mental health professional, share your thoughts with loved ones. Choose people who are willing to listen without judgment. Chances are that several people who’ve experienced pregnancy will likely share that they felt the same way, too.
2. Find Ways to Lower Stress
Regular life comes with many stressful situations. Staying on top of your work responsibilities, dealing with personal family issues, cleaning your house, sitting in traffic, running errands — add to that pregnancy and it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Find something that will help you manage that stress, such as regular exercise or starting a meditation practice.
3. Take Time to Rest
Anxiety affects all areas of your life — including sleep. To add insult to injury, one of the side effects of pregnancy is feeling more tired than usual. To keep these factors from worsening your anxiety, be proactive about resting. Learn about which sleeping positions are most comfortable during pregnancy — such as sleeping on your left side with a pillow between your knees. Reduce your activity level at home and work, especially if you’re carrying multiple babies.
Can you take anxiety medication while pregnant?
In the most severe cases — such as those where a person develops generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) — your doctor may prescribe medication to help manage your anxiety. Some serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are safe to use during pregnancy, although they do come with the risk of premature birth and low birth weight.
Talking with your doctor will help you come up with the best course of action after weighing the risks versus benefits. For example, if your anxiety is interfering with prenatal care and nutrition, taking antidepressants — along with undergoing counseling — may be a viable option.
If You’re Pregnant and Anxious, OB-GYN Women’s Center Can Help
At OB-GYN Women’s Center, we aim to make all of our patients feel comfortable. And getting answers to all your questions is the first step in getting the treatment you need.
Contact us to schedule an appointment.